If you’re a high school student (or the parent of one) sweating about college admissions, you might take heart from some news from the other side of the table. Many college admission officers are just as worried about whether you’ll apply and then take them up on their acceptance offer as you are about getting in.
Part of the reason many college admission officials are nervous is that many colleges had a tougher time filling their freshman class last year. The industry publication, Inside Higher Ed, recently surveyed senior college admission officials across the U.S. about their institutions’ admissions policies, procedures, and results. Sixty-three percent of the admission officials who responded reported that their college or university failed to meet their enrollment goals for the current academic year (2016-2017). That’s up from 58% when the same survey was conducted the prior year.
As a result, 81% of the admission officers surveyed said that their institution planned to beef up their efforts to recruit under-graduates this year. Although a larger share of private colleges (83%) indicated they were stepping up their efforts to attract more undergraduate applications, public institutions also reported increased recruiting efforts. Seventy-eight percent of admission officials from public universities said their institutions were expanding their recruitment efforts.
Merit scholarships are one recruitment tool that many officials said they planned to use more heavily this year. Fifty-three percent of all respondents said their school would likely increase their use of merit scholarships as a recruitment tool. Al though 63% of officials at private colleges said that merit scholarships would likely play a bigger role in their recruitment efforts this year, a sizable percentage (41%) of public institutions said that they also would be expanding the use of merit scholarships. The admission officers surveyed pointed to some specific categories of students that they likely would recruit more heavily. Forty-one percent said they would boost their recruitment of students who had the ability to attend without financial aid. Other groups of applicants that the officers said their school planned to recruit more heavily included international students, out-of-state students and minority students.
What does this all mean for current and future applicants? Another survey of college admission officers conducted by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) points to some answers. Although the total number of college applications rose by 6% last year, the NACAC study found that most colleges still admit a majority of their applicants. For the 2016-2017 academic year, the average ad-missions rate for all colleges and universities in the U.S. was 65.8%, up from 64.7% the year before. Less than 20% of colleges admitted fewer than 50% of applicants last year, with 36% of four-year colleges admitting between 50% and 70% of all applicants. In short, while media hype often makes it seem that it’s impossible to get into college these days, students who approach the application process seriously and apply to a thoughtful, well-balanced list of colleges have an excellent chance of being admitted to multiple schools.